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SHOP TALK : Reducing the Tab for Health Bars : If you’re keeping fit by watching what type of snacks you nibble on, hold down spending as well as calories.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; Leo Smith is a regular contributor to Ventura County Life

A couple of weeks ago we went shopping for exercise equipment, to encourage anyone who resolved to get fit in the new year.

But as we all know, though many of us hate to admit it, physical activity is only part of the equation. Eating activity is equally important. The right foods are critical to achieving or maintaining health and fitness.

For us, part of the struggle to keep fit is watching what we eat between meals. Candy bars used to be a staple. But recently we’ve switched to Tiger’s Milk Bars. Not only are they lower in fat and higher in protein than chocolate, but they taste good, can kill a hunger pang, and provide an energy boost.

(Yes, we still do our share to keep the Hershey company in business, but we have cut back.) Tiger’s Milk Bars and other health / energy bars can be found at many liquor stores, convenience markets, grocery stores and health food stores.

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Last week, we visited Mrs. Gooch’s Natural Foods Market in Thousand Oaks, the Southwest Market & Deli across the parking lot from Mrs. Gooch’s, Lassen’s Health Food in Ventura, Ralphs supermarket in Oxnard and Rainbow Bridge Natural Food Store in Ojai.

We discovered that health bar prices vary greatly.

We’ll start with the carob-coated Tiger’s Milk Bars (1.25 oz.), which boast six grams of protein, six grams of fat, lots of vitamins and minerals, and zero cholesterol. Rainbow Bridge and Lassen’s had them for 59 cents. Ralphs had them marked down from 59 cents to two for $1.

Mrs. Gooch’s doesn’t carry Tiger’s Milk Bars because, we were told, they contain dextrose (an unnatural form of sugar), but Southwest Market & Deli had them for 60 cents.

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Next, there’s the Power Bar (2.25 oz.), which claims to be “Fuel for Optimum Performance.” It comes in a variety of flavors and has two grams of fat, 14 grams of sugars, 10 grams of protein and is packed with vitamins.

It was $1.59 at Southwest Market and Rainbow Bridge, $1.09 at Lassen’s and $1.39 at Ralphs. Again, none at Mrs. Gooch’s, probably because of the fructose.

Now, we don’t want to suggest that Mrs. Gooch’s doesn’t have its fair share of health bars. As anyone who’s been to the store knows, the place is the definitive health food store.

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As far as health bars, they’ve got a pretty good stock. There’s the non-dairy Spirulina Sunrise bar (1.5 oz.) by Glenny’s. It contains 1,000 milligrams of “pure lab tested spirulina.” It’s priced at 89 cents.

Mrs. Gooch’s also carries the Glenny’s brand of natural bars (1.5 oz.) in toasted sunflower, coconut almondine, oatmeal raisin and roasted peanut, each priced at 79 cents. Rainbow Bridge carries the same line for 89 cents.

Rainbow Bridge and Mrs. Gooch’s also stock the Boots Bar (1.5 oz.), a creation of Ventura County’s own health promoter Gypsy Boots. It contains dates, raisins, peanut butter, a variety of nuts, honey and no sugar. It was 80 cents at Rainbow Bridge, 75 cents at Mrs. Gooch’s.

For our last two price comparisons, we’ll concentrate on Rainbow Bridge and Lassen’s, which had the largest selections of health / energy bars in our sampling of stores.

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The Nature’s Plus “Source of Life” Energy Bar (1.45 oz.), with 4.5 grams of fat, no cholesterol and lots of Vitamins C and A, is $1.30 at Rainbow Bridge and $1.45 at Lassen’s. And the high-protein Hoffman Energy Bar (1.75 oz.), with its honey, peanut butter, dried skim milk, defatted soy flour, soy oil, dried whole milk, vanilla with other natural flavors and dried egg white, was 69 cents at Rainbow Bridge, 60 cents at Lassen’s.

And here’s one last note: Remember, just because a snack is healthy doesn’t mean it has to taste bad, but many of them do. We’ll leave the taste comparisons up to you.


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